US egg producer lays off over 200 employees after HPAI hit

Egg producer Rembrandt Foods has laid off at least 200 hourly employees due to the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) outbreak, detected on March 7, 2022.

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Egg producer Rembrandt Foods has laid off at least 200 hourly employees due to the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) outbreak, detected on March 7, 2022. 

This is the second major outbreak at the company’s Buena Vista County, Iowa, location in less than seven years. The latest outbreak involved the depopulation of 5.3 million layers at the producer’s facility, which comprises 20 barns and a processing plant. 

According to Storm Lake Times Pilot, employees were notified on April 5 to seek other work, with no return date confirmed, and no guarantee made that barns would be repopulated. The egg producer opted to retain approximately 40 managers and salaried employees to fulfill existing orders and maintain equipment. Normally, the facility employs 300 permanent employees, along with additional temporary workers. 

Employee layoffs are expected after major incidents, such as HPAI detections, due to the effects on production hours and workloads. During the 2015 U.S. HPAI outbreak, Rembrandt laid off 231 employees at its facility in Buena Vista county, Michael Foods laid off over 100 employees at its location in Wakefield, Nebraska, and Jennie-O Turkey laid off 233 employees at its plant in Faribault, Minnesota.

The effects of avian influenza on layers

Layer farms continue to be the victim of 2022’s HPAI outbreak due to the large number of birds in each house compared to other poultry farms. 

The latest, and one of the largest, outbreaks involving over 5 million commercial layers was detected in Osceola County, Iowa, not far from Buena Vista County, on March 31. A commercial layer farm in Guthrie County, Iowa, containing almost 1.5 million birds was confirmed to have HPAI on March 28. 

The first HPAI outbreak in 2022 that claimed over one million hens was in Jefferson County, Wisconsin. The incident was confirmed on March 14 and affected just under 2.8 million birds. Iowa’s first commercial layer chicken HPAI occurrence was in Taylor County, Iowa, on March 10 and involved over 900,000 birds.

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